Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I Was Wrong About These Wines

You drink a wine with dinner and you form an opinion about it, and when the opinion is a negative one, it can be pretty hard to shake. But wine really does evolve. There is an aphorism about wine that I have previously placed too much stock in: "if you don't like a wine young, you won't like it with age." Maybe that refers only to the wines that are truly distasteful. In other words, if you hate it now, 8 years in a humid, cool, and dark cellar will not bring redemption.

But what if you were merely indifferent, or mildly disappointed at first taste? Well, even as little as a year of cellaring can bring about positive developments in a wine. It can recover from bottle shock, let's say, or from the vibrations of travel during shipping, or maybe the tannins can integrate just enough so that there is better balance and texture. Maybe the young fruit was shy at first. It's a complicated thing, this wine thing of ours, so doesn't it deserve a second chance?

The problem is that I don't have the space or the dollars to keep stock of every wine that I'm interested in, so those that don't show promise at first taste usually get left behind. This means that I will sometimes pass on the new vintage of a wine that I usually love, based on that one indifferent first experience. And unless I have the opportunity to re-taste this wine at a friend's house or at a restaurant, I don't even know what I'm missing! Ignorance can, in fact, be bliss.

Sometimes, though, I go deep-ish on a wine without even tasting, just based on past experiences with the producer and the quality of the vintage. So even if I don't like the first taste, I can be utterly wrong and live to tell the tale. Here are two lucky examples of this, both from the Loire Valley.

I bought six bottles of 2005 Domaine du Closel Savennieres Clos du Papillon without so much as a drop passing my lips. These babies were $33 apiece (a solid 15% price increase beginning with this vintage), why such confidence? Because I've tasted every vintage since 1999 and a few others before that, and found each of them to be fascinating and delicious. So when the perfect 2005 vintage hit the shelves, I didn't mess around. This should be one of those wines that brings tears of pleasure to your eyes in like, 15 years. Just buy the half case and move on to more pressing matters.

But the bottle I opened in July was just uninspiring. I found nothing of Papillon in there, or of Closel. It was full bodied and tightly knit wine, but nondescript, even after 3 days open And that really made me sad. So guess how happy I was the other night when the next bottle rang out with butterfly vineyard waxy mineral pure concentrated nutty honeyed structured goodness? Granted, it took 36 hours open to really show itself, but it's in there. I was dead wrong about this wine. Should have known better too, with all of the raw material provided in 2005, and I apologize to you Madame de Jessey for doubting your wine, even for a minute.

And what of the 2005 Bernard Baudry Chinon Cuvee Domaine? I gave this wine insufficient attention also, finding the first bottle to be rather dense and nondescript. So confident was I in my assessment that I held my remaining bottle for too long without another taste, and now I fear that I may be out of luck finding more. I cannot imagine a higher quality $17 red wine of this type. The bottle I opened last week was soooo good, and I only opened it because I wanted a glass of red, and I didn't want to open something pricier. There were clean aromas of dark flowers and tobacco on the nose, really mingling nicely and enjoying each other's company. Ripe fruit and some iron minerality to go with that on the palate. Very satisfying indeed, and very well defined flavors. It's true what Lyle at Rockss and Fruit said - this wine will not blow you away. But good luck finding a classier wine at this price.

So now I have to go write on the blackboard 100 times: "Trust the producers you love, and be more patient with their new releases."


Justin S. said...

Excellent advice.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I also wonder whether (a) my taste buds are just in a different place from time to time, and (b) the wine isn't always exactly the same from bottle to bottle.

Anonymous said...

"if you don't like a wine young, you won't like it with age." - My experience with some very young Burgundies, in particular, is that this is not true.

I think drinking wines really young and effectively judging them is very tough.

Oh, and the 7-word mantra is:
Trust producers you love. Be patient. Delicioso.

RougeAndBlanc said...

Would it be possible that the bottles you tasted 'just happened' to be off?
Luck you have the Baudry Cuvee Domaine. Not long ago, I tasted the Les Granges of the same vintage which I found to be jucy, delicious, pillowy but not memorable.

Brooklynguy said...

thanks justin.

steve l - bottle variation i bet is more of an issue with these natural wines. totally possible. tastebud variation too.

hey jack - agree, particularly with burgundy wines, red and white. anything meant to age is hard to judge young, but there should be something in there to latch onto and like, i think. without that its hard for me to buy.

i don't think they were off Andrew. nothing off about them, just not revealing anything of themselves when i tasted them.

Anonymous said...

I do agree with you - you'll buy the one(s) that seem promising to you. But, I've been really, really wrong about a few very young Burgundies...more so, than any other category.

Sonadora said...

I always wondered how the buyers and importers who taste wine in barrels years before it is intended to be consumed can really judge the value and potential of a wine. Though I suppose that's their job....I've found that some bottles I felt "eh" about, even just 6 months later had changed into something I really enjoy.

Sonadora said...

PS-Looking forward to reading about local lamb and local wine!

Sheila said...

Wines when they are young are like
an iceberg all you are seeing is the tip of the iceberg. Judging them young comes with experience My friend Dan who has a lot of wine experience decided tasting them young and trying to gauge how would they develop he would leave to Ric. Ric tastes about 160 wines a week or so has been doing this since 1973. Since I came on the
wine scene in the early seventies you are tasting wines which have not fully developed. As Ric said
about the 1996 Cantenau Brown no
amount of opening will make it taste like aging it will. Talking about Cantenau Brown I bought 6
bottles of 1970. The first three
bottles were murky god awful. The
last one I tasted was good the last
one should be wonderful. However
I will admit I am a Bordeaux drinker. Do I prefer Burgundy yes
however I find them more of a hit
or miss. So for this I would also go to Ric because lately I have been disappointed in my selections.

Brooklynguy said...

i hear you jack. curious - wrong in what way though?

hey megan - good to see you. i know what you mean. sometimes i read burghound, for example, and he talks about a wine that is so tight now and hard to assess, but rates it highly and gives it a drinking window. and he's probably right, too, within his own parameters anyway.

hi sheila- experience - there's something i need more of. thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

FYI--If you still want some of the Baudry, it was just released at Kermit Lynch. They ship. The Closel, too, just landed here. You make me want to try it (and it's less expensive here).

Brooklynguy said...

hey steve l - i found the baudry again at chambers street. it's really good, have you tried it? and you definitely should try the closel wine, but wait a few years.